In the In-Between

As the time warp of 2020 continues, we’re venturing deeper into a liminal space.

 

This transitional place sits between our known past and a still unknown future. Between a way of life we knew, and a new way to be that we’re still figuring out.

“Liminal space is a time of radical uncertainty where the foundational concepts of the way in which we’ve been living, and around which society is organised, no longer make sense. It’s not just that we’re unable to make sense of the problems that we’re facing. We can’t even conceptualise them. It’s a time almost of being suspended –­ it has profound existential implications.``

Samantha Earle - Philosopher, University of East Anglia

A liminal space is an in-between space.

 

It can be a physical place, a situation, or an experience, where “you don’t know what’s coming, but where many things are possible”. It can be scary or uncertain, but also exceptionally transformative. (Read more about what defines a liminal space here)

Anxiety vs Intuition

To help us traverse this liminal space, we’ll need to leverage our curiosity about the unknown, unleash our imaginations about what’s possible, and hone our abilities to focus deep on solving new challenges.

 

However, there are some obstacles we will face along the way too. One of them is dealing with the anxiety that arises from our immensely changeable and challenging current situation.

 

In an excerpt from his book Future Earth – A Radical Vision of What’s Possible in the Age of Warming, Eric Holthaus  puts it plainly: “Throughout the next decade, we will experience both creative imagination and creative destruction, which is likely to produce a deep and abiding sense of civilisational anxiety.”

 

Anxiety eats into our concentration and puts strain on our cognitive load. It also shuts down our creativity, an essential skill we will need to help us find our way through.

 

In a TED interview during lockdown, author Liz Gilbert spoke about intuition as being in opposition to fear, and how being curious about the unknown, instead of fearful of it, can help us find solutions and make progress.

``Fear is the terror you feel about a frightening, imagined future. Intuition can only happen when you're in the moment. There's a navigational system within you that will, if you stay present in this actual moment, tell you what to do from one moment to the next.``

Liz Gilbert - TED Interview

Curiosity about the Known and Unknown

We need to be curious about finding solutions that we can’t yet anticipate, and be open to developing systems for which the ground rules haven’t been invented yet.

 

So what are the next steps in a liminal space? They are small steps that we can initiate within the various tiers of our lives. We can start with bringing our self-awareness to the forefront.

 

What do you know about your situation? What are you doing personally and professionally, and how are you doing it? Are these practices going to support you in an uncertain future? Are they meaningful practices? Which of them do you have control over?

 

There’s power in small wins. So how can you make small changes in the way that you live and work, that further support your ability to be more curious, intuitive and creative?

 

We know that creative hobbies and side projects can be a gateway to unleashing new ideas, nourishing our wellbeing and creating moments of mindfulness. But what about in our usual work situations?

``Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.``

Teresa Amabile

Making Progress in Meaningful Work, (Whilst in a Liminal Space)

Reserving time for deep thought and work that matters, helps to create the space we need to let our creativity and intuition flow.

 

One way to do this is to develop and practise habits that support your focus and productivity. This gives us stronger foundations from which to face a future unknown.

``We often assume that productivity means getting more things done each day. Wrong. Productivity is getting important things done consistently.``

James Clear

Tools for Building Foundational Productivity

From the King of Habits (and author of Atomic Habits), here’s a helpful blog resource crammed with strategies for managing your time better.

 

[Funny, true story … I “almost” got a job with James Clear a few years ago. Out of 900 applicants, I was shortlisted along with 64 other people. That feels like a very long time ago now, lol!]

 

James Clear – The Productivity Guide

 

From time tracking to time blocking, this Wired article covers some of my ‘go to’ techniques for doing more focused work. To start, you do need to be disciplined in building a daily practice around them. But once it becomes second nature to work in this way, you’ll find you’re A for Away!

 

Will Bedingfield – Wired – How to Hack Your Concentration Working from Home

 

We tend to work more effectively on a project when we know there’s a deadline. It’s easy for projects to flounder if it feels like there’s no end in sight. Working according to seasons, can help immensely with focus and seeing things through.

 

Whether you work in quarters that account for the energy levels you may have, say in summer or winter, or you allocate 6 week sprints to work on specific projects, there are good suggestions in this article for ways you can adapt this concept to suit your cycles.

 

Belle Beth Cooper – Doist – Improve Your Focus by Working in Seasons

``It takes courage to try to change the world. It takes even more courage to admit we don’t YET know how we can change it.``

Eric Holthaus - from his excerpt article for The Correspondent

As we head into a new season, which Up North means leaves falling, jumpers for warming, and the end of the summer holiday vibe, I encourage you to be open to whatever this In-Between space and time presents to you.

 

Even in the most dire circumstances, hope can prevail. There is always another way through. There is always another system we can implement to support us better. There is always another approach to our work and life. Even if we don’t know what that looks like yet.

 

As mentioned in this excerpt article, Eric Holthaus asked Greta Thunberg what she thought our system would look like once we change everything. Her response was: “I don’t know … it hasn’t been invented yet.”

 

Have patience and try to be present with what is, in the In-Between.

 

Work on creating space for your creativity and intuition, as that’s what will help us find our way through.

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